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  • Writer's pictureJasmine Wheelhouse

How Saudi Arabia Is Leading the Green Transition

Despite being one of the world’s largest oil producing countries - producing a massive 12.14 million barrels per day in 2022 - the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is advancing significantly in transitioning to a green economy. The transition aims to reduce their historically high dependence on oil and is supported by detailed action plans, creation of public investment funds and multiple initiatives are already well underway.

The Saudi government’s green transition is being driven by a number of factors. As well as reducing their reliance on oil, they want to improve air quality, improve energy efficiency and ultimately provide a better quality of life at home and beyond its borders. Led by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, the plans aim to place Saudi Arabia as a country that is championing climate action and working towards a greener, cleaner future.

Saudi Arabia has introduced two key initiatives to tackle climate change at home and abroad: the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) and the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI).

The Saudi Green Initiative is a unifying vision for climate action in Saudi Arabia, focused on combating climate change, improving quality of life, and protecting the environment for future generations. The SGI is a whole-of-society initiative, uniting all sustainability efforts in the country to rapidly scale up the Kingdom’s climate action and supports the country’s ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2060.

The SGIs three main goals are:

  • Reducing emissions: by 278 mtpa by 2030

  • Increasing vegetation cover: plant 10 billion trees across the country, equivalent to 40 million hectares of land

  • Protecting local biodiversity and landscapes: raise protected areas to 30% of total land and sea area by 2030

Since introduced in 2021, the SGI has achieved a number of significant goals and are making strides towards hitting targets:

  • 13 renewable energy projects under development in 2022 (a combined capacity of 11.4GW)

  • 100 specifies of native tree being planted at 62 sites across Saudi Arabia

  • 18 million trees and 60,000 hectares of land rehabilitates in 2022

  • 16.9% of Saudi Arabia designated as nature reserves as of 2022

  • Committed to achieving 600 tonnes produced per day by the world’s largest clean hydrogen project in NEOM by 2026

  • 21,200+ endangered animals were rewilded across 15 different locations in the country in 2022

The Middle East Green Initiative was designed as a collaborative regional approach to combating climate change. MGI aims to build greener futures for generations to come, while fostering economic diversification, creating jobs and attracting private sector investment.

At present, the MGI has created a number of key subprojects, including The Co-operative platform to accelerate Circular Carbon Economy implementation, The Regional Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Sequestration Hub (GCC with Iraq) and The Regional Centre to Advance Emissions Reduction (with the ESCWA).

And has made significant progress in for climate action across the world:

  • 50+ countries are members or endorse MGI

  • 10% of emissions reduction target, equal to 10% of global contributions announcement (2021)

  • Committed to planting 50bn trees, equivalent to 5% of the global target

  • Saudi Arabia has committed $2.5bn to support MGI projects nand governance

  • 750 million beneficiaries of the Clean Fuel Solutions for Cooking Initiative

Both the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative are ambitious and present a major undertaking for both Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East. Despite being only two years into the projects, the country is making significant progress. With continued investment and commitment, Saudi Arabia can become a leader in the global green economy and help to create a more sustainable future for the world.

For more information on the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative:

Image credit: SGI 2021, image download here


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